Excess belly fat, or visceral fat, is associated with higher risks for diabetes, heart attack, stroke and other health problems. Imaging tests such as CT or MRI are the most accurate ways to measure abdominal fat, but they are expensive and not affordable for most people. Fortunately, you can take this measurement and estimate health risks simply by using your waist circumference and calculating your waist-to-hip ratio. If you are concerned about values, eat a balanced diet, exercise more, and discuss your overall health with a doctor.
Method 1 of 3: Measuring Waist Circumference
Step 1. Stand with your feet together and your stomach exposed
Remove your shoes and stand with your back straight and your abdomen relaxed - the hump can change measurements. Remove the shirt or wear a tight one if you want more accurate values.
Step 2. Place a measuring tape around your waist, in line with your navel
Use a flexible cloth tape and place it on the skin between the lower ribs and the hip bones. The right position is at the same level as the navel.
When wrapping the ribbon around your waist, keep it straight and parallel to the floor
Step 3. Measure your waist after exhaling
Breathe normally, but don't pull your belly. Make the measuring tape very straight and without any folds and take the measure of the waist circumference.
- Round the measurement to the nearest centimeter.
- Write down the value if you think you will forget it.
Step 4. Interpret the measurement
If you're a man, a waist circumference above 40 inches puts you at increased risk for developing obesity-related health problems such as diabetes, heart attack, or stroke. If you are a woman and not pregnant, a measurement above 88 cm is considered high risk.
- For men, a measure between 94 and 101 cm is intermediate risk, and a value above 100 cm is high risk. For women, between 80 and 87 cm is at intermediate risk, and circumferences over 88 cm are considered to be at high risk.
- Don't forget to round to the nearest exact value to get the measurement.
- There are no standard waist circumference values for pregnant women, children and adolescents.
Method 2 of 3: Calculating Waist-Hip Ratio
Step 1. Measure the waist circumference at the navel
Stand with your spine straight and place the measuring tape on your bare waist between the last rib and the hip bones. Release air normally and measure the circumference. Write the number and name of the measurement so you don't get confused with the value of the hips.
Step 2. Measure the hips at the widest point
For an accurate measurement, wear a tight-fitting garment or place the measuring tape directly on your skin. Wrap it around the widest part, usually where the thighs meet the hips and the lower part of the hip bones.
Keep the tape parallel to the floor and free from bending or twisting. Write the hip measurement and the name so you don't get confused with the waist circumference
Step 3. Take measurements twice
Since the waist-to-hip ratio involves multiple numbers, there is a greater chance of making a mistake. Taking measurements twice ensures more accurate numbers.
If the measurements don't match, measure yourself a third time and use the closest number
Step 4. Divide the waist size by the hip size and interpret the results
Use the same unit of measurement for both circles. For men, a result greater than 0.95 indicates an increased risk of health problems. In women, the high risk starts at 0.85.
For example, if you are a male with a waist circumference of 91 cm and a hip circumference of 100 cm, the ratio result is 0.9, well below the high risk reference value
Method 3 of 3: Seeing a Doctor
Step 1. See a doctor if you are concerned about your measurements
Waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio are inexpensive and easy ways to measure belly fat. There is plenty of evidence that they can accurately predict the risk of developing obesity-related health problems. However, they are meant to give you a rough idea of your health. Only a healthcare professional can accurately diagnose obesity-related problems.
Step 2. Ask the doctor about imaging tests
Such tests, such as CT and MRI, are the most accurate ways to measure abdominal fat, but they are expensive and not available to everyone. DXA, or dual energy X-ray emission densitometry, is a more affordable option, but still requires a physician requirement.
For most people, taking waist and hip measurements is the best way to estimate belly fat and to understand the health risks associated with it
Step 3. Get a physical and blood test to assess your overall health
The doctor may do a physical exam and order blood tests, such as blood glucose and cholesterol. These assessments can help you better understand your health status and risks.
Step 4. Discuss ways to improve your health with your doctor, if necessary
If you are overweight or obese, try to focus on improving your health rather than just losing weight. Set goals related to choosing healthy foods and doing more physical activity rather than the number of pounds you want to lose.
- Strive to maintain healthy eating. This includes limiting your sugar intake (too much sugar causes the body to start storing fat) and fewer calories overall. Excessive consumption is one of the main causes of obesity…
- Try half an hour of exercise every day. Ask your doctor for advice on starting an exercise program, especially if you're not used to physical activity.
- Focusing on developing a healthier lifestyle helps you maintain goals and a positive mindset.